September 22, 2011

RAND SIMBERG ON SPACE POLICY: The Fable Of The Shoes.

Such a bias toward the status quo similarly infects our thinking and debate on space policy. The highest achievement in the minds of many was landing a man on the moon, and such a feat is viewed as the epitome of a human spaceflight program, and the only model to follow. Ignoring the issue of the pork, such thinking resulted in the Constellation plan (“Apollo on Steroids”) and now it’s giving us the disastrous Senate Launch System (as I discussed over at PJ Media yesterday). It’s what I have called the Apollo Cargo Cult — in too many minds, if we don’t have a really big rocket developed and operated by NASA, we don’t have a Real Space Program.

The problem is that, while (fortunately) the government hasn’t always supplied shoes, in the minds of too many, it has always supplied human spaceflight, and when you propose to do it in any other way, no matter how much more cost effective, the same cries arise: “Are you crazy?! Why do you hate space exploration?! Spaceflight is hard! Only NASA knows how to put people into space! Who is going to do it if not NASA? These people are just hobbyists in garages! What if all of the commercial companies fail and go out of business?! (Yes, people really ask that.) What if they can’t hit their cost targets? What material will they use? What if we can’t store propellant in orbit?”

Like people who can’t imagine life without a government post office, or air traffic control (it’s private in Switzerland), or other things with which they have no experience, they can’t conceive of space activities that don’t consist of a few government employees on top of a really big rocket, with lots more government employees at desks in control rooms directing the show.

Read the whole thing.

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